Near the end of an entertaining Q&A over at the Freakonomics blog, Buster Olney lobs a mini-bombshell while discussing award voting:
- A vote based purely on a Sabermetric analysis would have its pitfalls as well. There was one year when a star player told a couple of writers that he would never speak to them again if they voted for a certain rival on their ballots, a situation that threatened to undermine that team's clubhouse; and after confirming that appalling story, there's no way I would've ever voted for that player for M.V.P., a situation that a SABR-like approach would've never addressed. In short - yes, I think the writers do the best possible job on the voting because they have the ability to meld all the factors mentioned above. (Now, the question of whether writers should be involved in the voting - and creating news - is another ethical question altogether.)
Ah, a mystery! If Buster wanted to reveal the identity of the "star player" he would have done it already, and I'm not going to put him on the spot.
However, I will report that I was in Seattle in 1996, when Alex Rodriguez would have edged Juan Gonzalez for the MVP if both Seattle voters hadn't listed Ken Griffey, Jr. first on their ballots. Ever since, there have been rumors that Junior or Alex or both were clear to the writers about their favorite candidates. And I'm told by an unimpeachable source that Rodriguez, 13 years later, still holds a grudge against those two voters.
Delicious, right? Someday, when all the involved scribes have taken the Murray Chass career path, we'll know all. In the mean time, feel free to speculate in the comments.